Interviewed August 22, 2011
By Nicole Ransom & Heidi Ross
Summary by Elizabeth Auer
Elizabeth Lawton was born November 12, 1912 in York, North Dakota to James McCarthy of Laverne, Minnesota and Gertrude Brown of Utica, Missouri. She is the youngest of her three older brothers Jay, Hiram and Donald. As she was told, Elizabeth “ruined their baseball team,” but her mother wasn’t going to stop until she had a girl. Elizabeth’s father James attended law school at the University of Minnesota. She remembers him as a very considerate man. Her mother Gertrude was the most kind and loving person of anyone she ever knew. Her parents met when her mother walked into the bank her father owned; he winked at her and they were married a year later.
Elizabeth grew up in York, North Dakota for most of her childhood. She attended high school in the small town of Minnewaukan, North Dakota. She left for Steamboat Springs, Colorado after high school, where she attended Perry Mason School of Dance. She then attended college at the University of Michigan. Elizabeth headed to Billings, Montana to teach dance during the start of the Depression. Her favorite type of dance was modern. There she met Doctor Leland Russell who was a surgeon in Billings Montana, and they married in 1939. They first had a daughter Roslyn. Elizabeth was pregnant with their son Gordon when her husband Leland was leaving for Pearl Harbor. She delivered their son one week after he left. She was widowed in 1954.
Her second husband was Leroy McBee. She was widowed again in 1963. Elizabeth began working in a therapy company and became a distributor in three states for the equipment. She was a district manger and oversaw multiple people and businesses. She moved to San Diego and opened her own store. Shortly thereafter she met her present husband, James Lawton. They were married September 3, 1965 and went into business together, opening a store named Norco Health Products. They sold adjustable beds, home medical equipment and supplies. They lived in San Diego (Rancho Bernardo) and ran their business in Escondido for twenty-five years.
Elizabeth and James frequently visited Arizona, where they had friends who had just moved to the area. They really like the area and decided to move here in 1990. Unfortunately in 1991, they lost their son Gordon, with whom Elizabeth was very close. The major world event that sticks with her is the Depression and living through it. As for Elizabeth’s hobbies, she has had many, ranging from traveling by RV to San Carlos in Mexico, New Mexico and Colorado, playing bridge, and dancing. Elizabeth and James have a karaoke machine in their den, which they use all the time. Their daughter Roslyn also has a talent for singing. They enjoy singing and dancing around the house together. Elizabeth has a love and enthusiasm about her for life and it shows when you meet her. She showers everyone she meets with a smile and laughter. In Elizabeth’s words, “I think I have lived so long because every day I eat a piece of See’s Candy, have an ice cream cone, take vitamins & think positively.”